Organic’s Unsustainable Ban on Bio-solids

“Biosolids” refers to human sewage waste that has undergone special treatment to allow for it to be applied to soils in a similar fashion as compost or fertilizer. This ‘waste’ is a soil amendment that is dense with the nutrients and minerals required for healthy plant growth.

Currently farms that are USDA Organic Certified are prohibited from using biosolids.

At first glance you may think the ban on biosolids is a good thing, and I agree that I’m not particularly fond of human waste being sprayed near my growing food either. However, our socially constructed disgust is not an accurate reflection of our waste’s true role in nature.

To put it simply, nutrients that leave the soil in the form of consumed vegetation must eventually return to the soil in the form of waste.

The completion of this full circle is critical in order to maintain a healthy and sustainable nutrient cycle… and by prohibiting the use of biosolids, we are putting a seriously inefficient kink in it.

Really the understanding of this concept is nothing new.

This method of working human consumed nutrients back into the soil system has been celebrated and utilized by agricultural communities around the world for thousands of years.

The part I find most confusing is that we fully recognize the valuable nutrient load animal manure carries, ensuring that it is incorporated back back into the soil as efficiently as possible.

Yet, for some reason, we refuse to view human waste under an even vaguely similiar light.

With that being said, it is important to point out that human waste does have unique complications associated with its use -such as the presence of pathogens and pharmaceutical contaminants.

For that reason, I am not suggesting the unrestricted-usage of biosolids on all soils by anyone and everyone.

And I really don’t know where exactly the problems lay, or what the solutions might be (I’m not an expert). I just think that we should be working toward finding ways to fix the issues to more efficiently utilize this resource.

So while I understand the logic behind the USDA’s ban in organic, I feel like it puts human waste in a taboo light as a destructive product with no potential value.

I am simply saying that the usage of biosolids, and the related complications, should be viewed as an issue in need of innovative solutions…. not an unavoidable consequences of an inherently evil practice.

4 Comments on Organic’s Unsustainable Ban on Bio-solids

  1. Good Afternoon
    Its Friday and I just left the whole foods on Mayo and the 101 and noticed you across the til from me. The cashier mentioned your shirt and it caught my attention. I have spent the last hour of my time reading your stories, watching your videos and sending the links along. I just want to say “keep it going”! To be passionate about food is all it takes. You clearly have a passion I hope your dreams and ideas grow and flourish and I wish you the very best! I am passionate about food, the way it is grown, how it is consumed and most importantly how it effects our health and soul. I am a farmers market junky , a local consumer, an avid Vegan and a mom raising a Vegan Family! Again best of luck … I will keep watching!
    Chels

  2. Chelsie,

    Thank you so much for the kind words! Positive energy is always much appreciated –and I’m glad you’re enjoying the Food Flow experience! Haha.

    Awesome to hear that you’ve decided to commit to fueling your family with real food! It certainly isn’t easy, and I have a lot of respect for anyone who takes it on.

    Good luck with your future foodie-adventures!

  3. Don Vincent // October 18, 2016 at 11:53 pm //

    sadly “biosolids” according to the EPA can be 1% human waste and 99% industrial waste – and it can still be classified as “bisolids” This is for the most part TOXIC WASTE, not human fecal matter – please do more research – do not be taken in by industry propaganda – see http://biosolidsbattleblog.blogspot.ca/2016_09_01_archive.html

  4. Hey Don,

    Great point. Like I said,

    “I am not suggesting the unrestricted-usage of biosolids on all soils by anyone and everyone. I am simply saying that the usage of biosolids, and the related complications, should be viewed as an issue in need of innovative solutions…. not an unavoidable consequences of an inherently evil practice.”

    An outright ban discourages innovation/research on the topic, and paints it as an inherently destructive/dangerous practice. When in reality, nutrients are finite, so if we care about sustainability… we nee them to work in a cycle. We can’t just ship our human waste to the moon haha. You raise a great point that their are a lot of issues with biosolids, I just think we should be working toward finding safe and effective ways to work these nutrients back into the soil.

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